Vegans Bring Pleather’s Sexy Back

No meat! No eggs! No milk! No Cheese!? Hold up.

It’s that cheese that usually gets ‘em, but I figured out how to eat a vegan diet. I read Beauty
Detox Diet by Kimberly Snyder and watched Forks Over Knives. This vegetarian was sold and it was easy to take the next step to eating vegan. I could live longer, age slower, prevent disease, save hundreds of gallons of water, reduce deforestation, reduce dead zones in the ocean, and have better skin? Sold.

“Vegan?” they say with eyebrows raised. We know they’re thinking (and sometimes say) they
think we are crazy, bold, dumb, self-righteous, brave, or a crunchy hippy. Sometimes it invites questions, but usually not.

We don’t preach. It’s not the best way to change hearts and minds. At the end of the day, we don’t care, we’ve made our choice and we want to embody it fully.

From food to fashion

Eat vegan diet. Check. Next up, vegan wardrobe. What? How does that work?

Vegans have added their stamp to materials that look like leather and have coined the term
“Vegan Leather”. So much sexier than the “pleather” we grew up with, reminding us constantly that the material is essentially plastic. The problem is that many online retailers claim their products are “vegan leather” but aren’t transparent about what they’re actually made of.

Not all vegan leather is the same.

And some of it still is just plastic of the worst kind. How can we be vegan in diet and in our
wardrobe without hurting the environment?

A guide to navigating Vegan Leather

1. Avoid PVC – This is sometimes called “vegan leather” and trying to ride the new wave of vegan chic, but it’s one of the most polluting of all materials.

2. PU – It’s slightly less evil than PVC. PU is degradable polyurethane and sometimes crafted into a desirable shape like this. This site is tricky because some of the items are clearly identified as PU, and other purses just say they are “vegan friendly, man made”. My hunch is that that the “vegan friendly” is PVC. No bueno.

bag13. Cork – It has the smoothness, durability, texture, and natural colour variations that are all benefits of leather. Cork purses and belts look fantastic. Ivanka Trump is on it with shoes too.

4. Glazed Organic Cotton – My favorite diaper bag was made by the amazing Petunia Pickle Bottom who has been making gorgeous bags for years. They’re so pretty I use it even though my babies are grown. It has the smoothness and durability of leather, with the added benefit of endless patterns.

5. Paper – Yes. Just paper. The designers at Paper No. 9 have made beautiful purses you would never guess are made from paper.

bag26. Cardboard – It definitely has a unique look and is not trying to resemble leather, but it makes a statement. The durability holds up for purses and bags.

7. Barkcloth – Made from the bark of fig trees, primarily in Uganda, this material is strong and takes on unique patterns after it’s processed. It’s great for purses and upholstery. It’s easier to find vintage pieces made of barkcloth right now and if you search for it, you may have memories of your grandma’s rec room.

You want another easy alternative ? Your dollars have power another way:

1. Buy pre-owned – Visit that thrift shop friends! They are the best. Even if we got a real leather or PVC Pleather pair of shoes, we wouldn’t be contributing to creating more of it in the world. However, let’s never miss the opportunity to tell people it’s second hand (and why we chose it) when they compliment us on our style.

2. Buy Up-cycled – I have a bag that is made from tire scraps, leather scraps and old seat belts collected in Central America. That’s an up-cycling match made in heaven. And it looks great.

Sometimes it feels like there is no good way to live sustainably unless we grow our own produce and have a couple of sheep in the back yard for spinning wool. Then we’d have to knit and garden like crazy.

These vegan options relieve you of that potentially disastrous undertaking while still making ethical choices good for people and the earth

Read our article on leather tanning in Bangladesh, Lives Lost to Leather.


About the Author

Jenny Arrington is a yoga teacher and founder of Karma Trik, a garment made from one piece of cloth that can be worn 15 ways. She attended the MIT Global Entrepreneur Bootcamp where Karma Trik was chosen to pitch. She is also mother of two girls, fundraiser, community collaborator, and amateur aerialist.

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